Chinese New Year’s Eve in Taiwan: Locked in a Coffee Shop

chinese-new-year-2015_23-2147502883Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve. As evening approaches, the majority of businesses, restaurants, and other establishments will close and remain that way tomorrow and even into the following day. Places like schools are off longer. My university, for example, starts back on Wednesday next week. (Technically, the holiday lasts all the way to the 15th day of the new month, concluding with the Lantern Festival.) Now, that doesn’t mean EVERYTHING is closed. But other than the fireworks that will pick up in the next few hours, things will get pretty quiet. Many of the people in this area actually travel south to join their extended family for reunion dinners (on the husband’s side of the family) and then lunch with the wife’s family on the second day.

Now that you know that, I’ll tell you that I’ve spent pretty much the entire day at the coffee shop that I use as my pseudo office during the semester break. Naturally, I was wondering what they were planning for CNY. It turns out, they wanted me to know their plans as well. So through a couple of my students, they conveyed to me that they would close from 5-9 pm on New Year’s Eve for a family dinner. Then they’d reopen at 9 and stay open until their usual closing time at midnight. (We saw in the January New Year here at the coffee shop, so it seemed like a great idea to do it for CNY as well.)

A few days after telling me about the dinner on Wednesday, they posted a sign on the register and had someone translate for me to let me know they were going to go north of Taipei for the day. So they would be closed all day yesterday (Tuesday), but reopen today (Wednesday). They are also going to be open New Year’s Day (Thursday) and on. On Tuesday, while they were closed, my husband and I went to Taipei to meet a friend for dinner and coffee. So not only did we weather their day off well, I’ll be able to come here tomorrow, when most other places will be closed.

So now, back to tonight. I had (almost without thinking) made an assumption that since they decided later to go north yesterday, that they were NOT closing tonight for dinner. But I was wrong. So at 4:50, I had just gotten a new latte when I finally caught on to what was happening, as the last of the other customers were getting ready to leave. I quickly emailed my husband to tell him he should come right away to walk me home, or that I would come myself.

Through the magic of body language and charades, I was able to suggest that I just stay in the corner of the coffee shop and work here while they went upstairs for their dinner. I was half serious and half joking, but what the hell. Then through another kind of magic (smart-phones and translation sites), the owners were able to convey to me that I was, in fact, welcome to stay here while they did the dinner. They closed the shop, put up a sign that they’d reopen later, turned on some music, and I found myself locked in a Taiwanese coffee shop on New Year’s Eve.

Since my husband had packed fruit and veggies for me, and I have a fresh latte, I figure I am good until 9 when they return. At 9, my husband will join me, and we’ll see in the new year at the coffee shop.

As I write this post, I am nearly halfway through the four hours. It’s been productive and relaxing. A nice mix of work and introspection. It’s been a good day, and it promises to be a great beginning to my last Chinese New Year’s celebration in Taiwan.

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